Research Based Study Tips

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You know the feeling that I am talking about. Right before an exam begins. Your palms are sweaty and you wonder if you are prepared or not.

Most of us have felt that anxiety and some of us will continue to take exams late into our adult lives. I have felt this way too and wanted some answers for how to best prepare and reduce my own test anxiety. So I looked for the most sound, evidence-based tips to increase your study productivity and overall outcome.

Here is what we came up with:

  1. Don’t cram: It seems pretty obvious, but cramming not only increases anxiety about the test and reduces long term retention of the material. So right off the bat, do yourself a favor and start studying early. Study in 20-50 minute segments of time with short breaks in between.

  2. Eat well: Research on brain performance and food intake is everywhere. Reduce the amount of heavy foods like meat, cheese, and cream before taking a test. Keeping healthy things like oatmeal in your system will give you the best sustained attention and energy.

  3. Cardio helps: Even as little as 20 minutes of cardio reduces stress levels and increases healthy blood flow and energy. So dance, job, or walk as much as possible.

  4. Mix up your study spots: A great article by the New York Times encourages the use of two or more distinct physical spaces for studying. The brain is able to track background activity and sensory data that somehow results in increased retention. So find a few different places to study in and see if it helps!

  5. Avoid the all nighter: Yes that is right. Staying up all night is really bad idea before a test. A 2008 study by Pamela Thacher, Associate Professor of Psychology at St. Lawrence University states that staying up all night can impair your reasoning and memory for as long as four days. So you can pretty much guarantee lower grades if you stay up the night before an exam.

  6. Minimize distractions: It seems really obvious but making sure that you are in a quiet place without obvious distractions will really help. While some teens believe the can multi-task, research shows that our brains are not able to do two things at once.  Keep things simple, turn your phone on do not disturb, take the headphones out or find instrumental music, and get to work.

Hopefully that is helpful as you prepare for your exams! If you have specific questions about mental performance or memory go ahead and put them in the comments below and I do my best to answer! Thanks for reading.


Meet our Clinician and Co-Founder, Drew Konzelman, M.A., LMHCA.

Drew loves adventures and he loves stories. That's one reason he is so passionate about the work he gets to do at Novo Life. Drew specializes in working with people who want to unlock more functional and creative potential within themselves. Issues that get in the way are commonly Anxiety, Depression, and ADHD. He also specializes in LENS Neurofeedback, a revolutionary treatment that improves brain function and reduces a myriad of symptoms in clients.

When he isn’t in the office, he is taking his wife and daughter on adventures around the world. He is passionate about the written Word, surfing, entrepreneurship. If you want to learn more about Drew, or figure out what is holding you back from reaching your full potential, don’t hesitate to connect with Drew, he would love to hear from you!